Can Anger Improve Emotional Well-Being?

Emotional experiences play a big part in overall well-being. When someone has high levels of pleasurable emotions, such as happiness, they tend to have a higher level of well-being than people with large quantities of painful emotions such as anger. This theory might suggest that people who choose to be happy have more positive levels of well-being than people who choose to be angry. But according to a recent study led by Maya Tamir of the Department of Psychology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, that is not necessarily the case.

Tamir enlisted 173 people and measured not only their preference of emotional state, happiness versus anger, but their ability to choose anger or happiness when it would help them achieve their goals. In a series of experiments, participants had to accomplish goals that required confrontation or collaboration. In confrontational situations, anger would help with goal attainment, while happiness was more useful in the collaboration goals. Tamir found that even though the participants who wanted to experience happy emotions and avoided anger had moderately high levels of well-being, those who chose anger when it was useful for goal attainment had the highest levels of well-being overall.

This finding suggests that emotional preference is important, but it is even more critical when examined in context of particular situations. This is in contrast to what would be expected. “It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that the more frequent pleasant emotions and the less frequent unpleasant emotions people want to feel, the better,” Tamir said. However, her findings suggest otherwise. When she examined those who preferred anger, despite the context, she discovered they had low levels of well-being, which was expected. But those who chose happiness overall did not have high levels of well-being when happiness was their preferred emotional state in confrontational situations. In sum, the results of this study imply that pursuing specific emotions in relation to the event at hand may be a better indicator of well-being than overall emotional preference.

Tamir, Maya, and Brett Q. Ford. Should people pursue feelings that feel good or feelings that do good? Emotional preferences and well-being. Emotion 12.5 (2012): 1061-070. Print.

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  • Gabrielle


    November 8th, 2012 at 3:59 AM

    I see absolutely no way that being angry for any amount of time can imporve how you feel emotionally. Yes it may allow you to get your feelings out but I don’t think that it is healthy to keep this as your aconstant state of mind. Think about the people that you know in your life who always seem to be anxious and angry- do they really seem content and healthy to you? They don’t to me.

  • lance


    November 8th, 2012 at 4:01 AM

    well although I am someone who generally looks at being happy and far away from anger I dont think it is possible to go about every situation with the same mindset.Sometimes you need to adapt to the situation.I’m not saying displaying anger is necessary in some situations but you have got to be very serious at times too. And certain people need to be dealt with minus all the nice mood,if you know what I mean.

  • A.D


    November 8th, 2012 at 11:59 PM

    Use the tools that fit the job. You ain’t gonna be able to do all the work with one tool!

  • DeVoN


    November 9th, 2012 at 4:19 AM

    For me, it is always better to let my feelings out versus trying to keep them bottled up inside. I know that I do feel kind of sorry for someone when they get into the midst of a rage, but you know, what can I do? That’s what I’m feeling at the time time, so if I know that overall this is going to make me feel better, then I just gotta let it out.

  • Nick Robinson

    Nick Robinson

    December 24th, 2012 at 8:23 AM

    Very interesting findings, but a little flawed.
    Basically, it’s saying there’s a correlation between being able to choose the emotion that most helps achieve your goal and your overall emotional well being.
    However, correlation doesn’t mean there’s a causal link.
    People who achieve their goals are likely to have higher levels of overall well being aren’t they?
    Plus, it’s a bit unsophisticated to label emotions as either ‘happy’ or ‘angry’. I can see how ‘determined’ or ‘driven’ might be more useful than ‘happy’ in some goal-oriented situations, but they’re not the same as ‘angry’

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